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How to Structure a Case Interview
 by Victor Cheng

Question:

Thanks to your videos I made it to the final rounds, but the feedback from the last
interview said that I needed more structure.

As you surely know, case interviews at McKinsey (at least in my country) are pretty
standard in structure. This structure is as follows:

1. They open with a business situation, ask you to come up with areas to investigate.

2. They ask a more specific question, based on what you said at 1.

3. They give a numerical analysis and ask for conclusions.

4. Overall conclusions and recommendations.

Some steps may repeat during a case, for example instead of 1 2 3 4 it may be 1 2 3 2 3
4. My point is that you don't really drive the case, they ask you questions which you have
to answer.

Which brings me to my question.

For my last case I had a wine producer that we had to asses for a private equity buy out.
So, for 1 I set up your standard framework, and after we went through it, the interviewer
jumped to the question : "What are the dimensions in which this firm can grow?".

1 of 9 3/25/2018, 10:26 AM

So. I should have said that market share is an objective. and that he wanted to hear a MECE list like : Increase products. but did not tell me right away (I found out at the end of the case). increase product output. although they don't conduct the interviews the standard way (in which I drive the case. but he restated the question. how can I practice for gaining MECE structuring capabilities in just one week? They said I should find a partner (which I have already been doing. I ruled out their suggestion.caseinterview.How to Structure a Case Interview https://www. So. when the interviewer asked about dimensions for growth. First. He didn't agree. So. as the average person doesn't know what that means. For example. He told me that I need more structure. one already passed. what I think he/she meant was what WAYS can this company grow? I personally wouldn't have used the term dimensions as an interviewer. because for example at the dimensions growth question. Other times I'll start with one of my standard frameworks and then make up a new framework on the fly (an advanced skill only needed in perhaps 1 in 15 cases). and I came to you for help. not a dimension. not them). in which I should practice this structuring. the first thing that popped into my mind was market share. but having in mind a case situation like you described) to do some mock interviews. Second. so I said increase products and products output. 10:26 AM . They gave me 2 weeks. my question is. We moved on to 3 and 4 which went well. You will want to listen carefully to your interviewer as they will often guide you in a different direction if your initial approach is wrong. My Response: Your situation/question has several aspects to it.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview I asked what he meant by dimensions. and that was it. in this case study interview standard. the frameworks are a useful way to START a case. I have in the past started a case with the business situation framework but then switched to a supply/demand framework. 2 of 9 3/25/2018. He asked what else. grow geographically etc.

. This makes sense particularly in the case of evaluating an acquisition. but was looking specifically to analyze the various ways the target company can grow. target new market. it is 3 of 9 3/25/2018.costs = profits framework. So I suspect if you said something like.. and thus wanted to guide you in that direction because in any other direction he wouldn't have had the background to answer your questions / requests for data. This is a different framework and certainly isn't wrong. It also sounds like he wasn't looking for an overall business assessment. And perhaps someone else had taken the competitive and industry aspects of the client situation. The other reason the interviewer might have done this is perhaps he (I'm just going to assume he for ease of writing) worked only on the revenue growth aspects of the actual client situation. 10:26 AM . When this situation comes up where it doesn't fit a pre-existing framework perfectly. etc. but it does organize the information in a different way.) But you could have re-phrased the question to confirm if you understood the vocabulary. The reason the interviewer probably repeated his question was he didn't want to give you the answers (like introduce new products..How to Structure a Case Interview https://www. As in: what are the revenues and costs under current management versus what would the potential revenue and costs be under the acquiring company. They key to making an acquisition work is to see if the acquiring company can find a way to grow the target company that the previous management team did not or could not execute.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview If you did not understand the question.caseinterview.. you really should not proceed until you do. So the interviewer only had data for the portions of the case that he worked on. "Are you asking me which WAYS this company can grow?" "Is that what you're asking?" He would have probably said "yes" (which doesn't end up revealing any of the potential answers). It seems to me that the interviewer really wanted to talk only about revenue growth opportunities and nothing else. the team or interviewer used more of a revenue . Also it looks like in this case.

in 4 of 9 3/25/2018. Interviewer: Okay. So one possible answer would be.. it's very easy to get lost.. "In my speech. you need to state the table of contents before you dive into the details of each chapter.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview often useful to give a high level answer organized in a way that is easy to follow.. C. I am going to talk about 3 topics: A.How to Structure a Case Interview https://www. So you'd ideally want to list the major categories of growth." So basically you want to list all your answers to the question. you want me to find all the various ways this company can grow.caseinterview. Thus you need to "structure" your answer a bit up front before diving into the details. you want to say. Most people who answer the question "what ways can this company grow" will say something like this: 1) They could grow through X method. Topic B. "As I said at the beginning. "In what ways can this company grow?" up front BEFORE you dive into exploring any one answer. It is like reading a text book that has no table of contents and no chapter titles. This is the "more structure" the interviewer was likely referring to. Or to use a different analogy. when you give a speech. B. To use an analogy... 10:26 AM . "Let's see.. then you say. Let's see. I will talk about 3 topics: Topic A. Now there are many ways a company can grow.. This is where the MECE Principle comes into effect. To list all of them in detail would take up way too much time. now I'm going to talk about topic B.. Topic C" (notice the similarity to a framework).... This is very much like a laundry list and is very hard to follow. I've just finished topic A. what else? 2) They could grow through Y method. Then in your speech you talk about topic A. You want to use the MECE principle to organize your initial answer.

New Customers .Existing vs. While consultants are fond of "MECE-ness. You could improve it by using the following approach: Products/Services . old product) or change who you sell to (existing customer/customer segment vs.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview general to grow a business you can change what you sell (e. another possible way of organizing the answers to "what ways can this company grow" could be: Products/Services . For example.Existing vs. New This approach has some structure to it. (Click Here for more info on MECE framework).. as it presents it in a visual way that is more easily understandable to more people than describing it verbally.Existing vs. which I am having difficulty doing: Old Customer Segment New Customer Segment Old Product New Product This an example of a MECE framework in that in each dimension. New Other Ways to Grow* 5 of 9 3/25/2018.g." I probably would have listed this as a 2 x 2 matrix which is a more STRUCTURED way to present this kind of information.. New Customers . it covers 100% of the possible options within the category.Existing vs. New Distribution Channels . but it's neither mutually exclusive ("ME") or collectively exhaustive ("CE").. New Distribution Channels . particularly if there isn't a better way to organize the information at hand.How to Structure a Case Interview https://www..Existing vs. 10:26 AM ." sometimes "MECE-enough" is good enough. new product vs.. there is no overlap in each of the categories and when you add up all the categories.caseinterview.Existing vs. new customer/customer segment).

so a client (or in your case an interviewer) can never say your framework didn't cover every possibility. as consultants we often use MECE-enough approaches when a clean MECE approach doesn't come to mind.. In practice.How to Structure a Case Interview https://www. customers and distribution channels. In terms of practicing how to create MECE ways to organize information (e. you can practice this very easily by using the MECE in everything you do in everyday life.. The same approach is reasonable in a case interview.caseinterview. but there is still the potential for overlap across the three primary areas - products.. it makes the work collectively exhaustive (the CE part of MECE). "Hi honey. frameworks) on the fly.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview The last category is a catch-all..g. before you get tempted to use a MECE enough approach. However. here are all the ways I love you: Section 1: Qualities about you that I love Section 2: Qualities about me that I love when I with you Section 3: Other "Where should we go to dinner tonight?" Here are our options: 1) Restaurants East of our current location 2) Restaurants West of our current location 3) Restaurants North of our current location 4) Restaurants South of our current location or 6 of 9 3/25/2018. By adding the "other" category. take the effort to consider if you can make your approach 100% MECE first. 10:26 AM .

7 of 9 3/25/2018. 10:26 AM . I suggest becoming a registered member (it's free) to get access to the materials I used to pass 60 out of 61 case interviews. entering your email also subscribes you to my Case Secrets Email Newsletter. To get access to these free resources. this is how consultants think. but many consultants will think in this way in their heads. Additional Resources If you found this post useful. You can see examples of cases being structured in the Look Over My Shoulder® audio recordings.com/how-to-structure-a-case-interview 1) Restaurants within a 1 mile radius 2) Restaurants within a radius of 1.0 miles 3) Restaurants within a radius of 2. and over 500 articles on case interviews. the actual frameworks I used to pass my interviews.01 miles+ This may seem ridiculously "STRUCTURED" to the point of being really absurd in everyday life. Please type your email address carefully. Members get access to 6 hours of video tutorials on case interviews. land 7 job offers. You may now want to use the approach out loud in a social setting.01 miles to 2. but believe it or not..caseinterview..How to Structure a Case Interview https://www. just fill out the form below: First Name * Email * Note: All registrations require you to confirm your email address. and end up working at McKinsey.

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